Sitting in front of the television increases the risk of heart disease, but not sitting at work

Sitting in front of the television increases the risk of heart disease, but not sitting at work

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Is sitting in front of the television particularly harmful?

Long sitting is known to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death, but a new study suggests that not all types of sitting are equally unhealthy. Sitting in front of the television in your free time increases the risk of heart disease and death, but does not sit at work.

Columbia University's recent investigation found that sitting in front of the TV was associated with a higher risk of heart disease and death, but not sitting at work. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Journal of the American Heart Association".

The effects of sitting can be reversed

The study also found that moderate to heavy physical activity can reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of sitting in front of the TV. The results show that it is important for heart health how you spend your time outside of work, the study's authors say. Even if you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, using the time for exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease and death.

Just under 3,600 people took part in the study

A growing body of research shows that people who are sedentary, especially those who sit long and uninterrupted, are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death. Previous studies have mostly measured physical activity using an activity monitor that is unable to distinguish between different types of sedentary behavior. The new study included 3,592 people. The participants indicated how much time they normally spent sitting in front of the TV and at work and how many hours of sport they did in their free time.

Sitting at work is safe?

Participants who spent most of the hours watching TV (four or more hours a day) were 50 percent more likely to experience cardiovascular events and death than those who had spent the least time watching TV (less than two hours each Day). In contrast, the people who sat the most at work had the same health risks as those who sat the least, the researchers report.

Movement in leisure time compensates for disadvantages

Even for the most engaged television viewers, moderate to violent physical activity reduced the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or deaths. No increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or premature death was found in people who watched TV for four or more hours a day and moved for 150 minutes or more per week.

Sitting particularly harmful without interruption?

In a previous study, researchers found that excessive sitting is associated with poorer health outcomes, and all the more so when sitting occurs in long, uninterrupted periods. It is possible that most people tend to watch TV for hours without moving, while most people often get up from their desks at work, the study authors suspect. The combination of a large meal (like dinner) and sitting for hours could also be particularly harmful. Further research is now needed, but it is possible that a short break at the TV time and a walk are enough to compensate for the damage caused by sitting during leisure, the researchers further explain. Almost any type of activity where you breathe harder and your heart beats faster can be beneficial. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Jeanette M. Garcia, Andrea T. Duran, Joseph E. Schwartz, John N. Booth III, Steven P. Hooker: Types of Sedentary Behavior and Risk of Cardiovascular Events and Mortality in Blacks: The Jackson Heart Study; Journal of the American Heart Association (query June 27, 2019), JAHA

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